making friendships

On Saturday, E, Anna and Hannah (the new girls) and I went to a women's health conference at the local office. I've been having a hard time developing friendships with the women, except for my language helper. I had heard that before coming here that it's just hard to meet women in this country, but I arrogantly shrugged it off, and said to myself, "Whatever. I'm outgoing, I won't have any problems." Ha! So here I am, almost 3 months in our city, and I have a close relationship with only 3 women, all of which are our employees. So of course I was very excited to see the outreach that the local office had planned so I could meet some women. E and I had a long talk before about how everytime husband and I had a strategic opportunity, one of us would get sick, and for some reason we had never put the pieces to this puzzle together. E pointed out it seemed like we were being attacked, which totally made sense. So sure enough, sitting in the women's conference yesterday, my stomach just started going nuts. Another strategic opportunity, another wave of the sickness. (it happens so often to us in third world countries that we end up speaking pretty frankly about it, but I'll spare my stateside friends :) Turns out all 4 of us, save for E, ended up sick within the hour! We're still not sure what it was from, because we all ate the same things. We figured E must be immune to it after 9 years overseas. Whatever it was, it kept us from staying the whole time at the conference, which was disappointing, but the conference turned out to not be exactly what we thought it was anyway. It was fun, though, because this culture is incredibly modest, and even for women to talk about feminine things in front of only other women, is embarrassing to them. There was plenty of giggling and blushing going on. They had us rolling in laughter, though, at how cute they were at such common things that even my grandma wouldn't bat an eyelash.

Today was a different story. I still wasn't feeling my best, but I was determined to not let the evil one get the best of my Sunday. During the meeting, I asked my boss to show me who I could open a friendship with, and after it was over, a woman walked up to me and said with a huge smile, "I like you." Well that was easy, thanks! So we chatted in both our languages, and she ended up asking for my number and I told her when I was home and to come by anytime. I'm really excited for how my faithful boss answered my request. Hopefully I'll be able to get together with her soon.

Also, E gave me a great idea while she was here. There is a, for lack of better word, technical school for women here in the city. They offer classes on sewing (mother-in-law would be proud!), painting, "beautician", and oddly enough, toy stuffing. I'm going to talk to the school tomorrow about signing up for one of the 1 month courses so I can develop some relationships and practice my language. I'm just hoping the next class they offer isn't the toy stuffing one. Otherwise, my family is going to up to their earlobes in stuffed animals by the time it's over.

So for all these opportunities, I ask for you to send some money my way, one, that the attacks would stop, and two, that my boss puts me in a divinely appointed class to meet women and develop strategic relationships. Thanks for your part in this!!


turkey heads + no water = a great day

Thanksgiving was a success! 4 girls and 1 guy, none of whom had ever made a turkey, prepared a 12lb turkey in a counter top oven with no water. Yep, our water has been out since yesterday afternoon. We prepared our entire thanksgiving dinner by the help of two of the girls lugging water bottles from their apartment (which does have water) to our own.

It was fun this morning when E, our friend from the capital, started preparing the turkey. When she took it out of the bag, she noticed that the butcher oh so
generously included the head of the turkey. We had fun with that. A quick call to my mom taught us how to prepare it, and it went off without a hitch. Water shortage excluded, of course. We had to be creative on which pots and pans and utensils could be used twice without washing. Fortunately, after sending a lot of money, it all worked out. We had a nice sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, Mema's dressing, fruit salad, regular salad, and turkey and gravy.

We had a great time of p&w after dinner, and I was so thankful that the boss had surrounded me with great new friends to celebrate with, and the technology to talk with my family. (and see!) Then we enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie with coffee! Real coffee, not instant. What a luxury!

All in all, it was such a great day, even with the hustle and bustle with preparations and the mess that has become my kitchen. (no water really does you in, but it is a great excuse to not do the dishes)

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving preparations are officially underway

YEA! Tomorrow is my second favorite holiday, running a close second to Christmas. Today, a friend of ours from the capital arrived to celebrate with us. On the train and busride to get here, she had with her a 12 lb turkey, a roast, canned pumpkin, and tons of other fun food items! Since our oven is pretty small (look at your toaster oven and imagine it's giant twin. That's our oven), we had to prepare half of the stuff today. Fortunately, the two new girls here have an oven as well, and we are using both of them at our house. Today, I made cornbread for the dressing, a double portion of the hexagonal apple pie, and green bean casserole. Husband made tortilla chips and salsa for us to snack on, and tonight we are having fajitas! We're also hoping to play cards, because it just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving without a big card game (that traditional came from husband's side of the family). One of the things I'm most excited about is our friend from the capital is making a pumpkin cheesecake!

The only damper so far is that we just lost all water. So the group of girls walked down to their apartment to try their luck with the spicket, and are going to fill up our pepsi and water bottles and now we're going to have to boil the water. We should get more water by tomorrow at 11am...that's when the city pumps the water into the tanks. We're not quite sure why the water is gone, but we are thankful for alternatives.

So I've never realized how much work goes into Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks for all y'all did, Mom, Aunt B, and Mema. I'm putting in a lot of effort to not think about how much I miss my family for my second favorite holiday. Instead, I'm thinking about how excited I am to co-host my very own first Thanksgiving dinner. I guess I am not longer welcome at the kid's table.


in the middle of chaos, he's still in control

We really enjoyed our trip to the capital, but now we're so glad to be home. The train ride was both very fun and uneventful. We did get to see the beautiful morning countryside and they served us a nice breakfast of an omelette with peas on top, bread and butter and juice. It wasn't bad, either (see I told you I'm not picky!). While we were there, we did so much stocking up on stuff, and enjoyed all the American food! We also saw three wedding processions in one night which was really cool. One was right outside the restaurant we were eating at and when we got up to leave, they procession was coming into the parking lot so our way was blocked. We stopped and watched the celebrations, and the guests got a kick out of us. They actually had a marching band just like from a high school, and people were dancing like crazy. The groom rode in on a white horse, and it was sad because he really couldn't dance, but then he started dancing on the horse. One guest came up to husband and the other guy with us and asked them to come dance with the rest of them! But they decided it would steal the thunder away from the groom (especially since the videographer had already come over to us and taped us, and the photographer snapped our pic. We pretended like we were dancing in that one) It was really cool and made me want even more to be invited to a wedding!

Yesterday we had carpet installed in the living room and our bedroom to help us keep warm. We love our house even more now! But it sure was hectic getting it done. First, the breaker to allow the water to lift to the roof was broken, so we had no water. Then, the carpeters called about 45 minutes before coming to say that we needed to move all the furniture out and sweep and mop (never having installed carpet before, we naively figured they would do it). Our maid was already late, and then called to say she wasn't coming. We also had the two new girls here for the weekend because their landlord said they couldn't move in until Monday so we were trying to help them get moved out and buy several items they needed. In the middle of all the chaos, though, the mailman came and there was a package from my mom and one for husband, and it lifted our spirits tremendously. Our boss knows just when to meet our desires! Finally, we got our breaker fixed (it was completely melted!), the carpet installed, and the girls moved in, and were able to enjoy the many blessings our boss has bestowed upon us.

Now we are gearing up for a great Thanksgiving with our new friends!


road trip!

Tomorrow husband and I begin our journey to the capital city. We will take a bus to the nearest large city, 4 hours south of here, and stay the night. Then, we are waking up extra early on Thursday morning to take our first cross-country train trip! We are so excited. I don't know if I'm more excited about the train or for spending 2 days/nights in the capital city. We are going to eat at American restaurants, see our friends, and enjoy weather that doesn't involve layering shawls and fleece over wool sweaters. I can't wait!

We'll be back on Saturday night after a long 10 hour taxi ride. Our purpose for going is because there are two new girls coming to our city for a few months, and we need to escort them back here. It will be fun to hear their reactions to the mountains as we drive in them. I still remember how excited we were when we first arrived here.

Alright, time to pack! TGI Friday's, short sleeved shirts, Bennigan's, cheddar cheese...here I come!


shh...don't tell PETA

This past weekend, husband and I went to mail off two more packages, and while there, an Australian guy asked us where we got our box wrapped. We told him a tailor, and he looked dumbfounded. "You mean they don't do that here?" I laughed and said no. Apparently, the woman at the post office had told him to come back at 3 (the time they stop sending international packages) and he could get the package wrapped there. He stood there slightly arguing with the ladies about what they told him then vs. what they were saying now. I felt for the guy, especially when he said he was leaving on Sunday to go back home and had no way of mailing this package off. We laughed, though, when he dramatically told the women, "You ruined my life and all you have to say is I'm sorry?!" It was a bit over the top. And as bad as it sounds, I was kinda relieved to know we weren't the only ones who didn't get the system.

Also on Saturday, husband figured out a way to scare off the monkeys. Someone gave us a walking stick, and so he held it up like it was a rifle, and they slowly scattered. I still think a bb gun would work wonders. One week of that, and we'd be rid of them forever.


celebrate good times, come on!

You're welcome. (for putting that song in your head, of course) Tonight, husband and I went to a birthday party! It was for our maid's daughter who just turned 5 today. This was our first time to meet her kids, and they were so sweet. The little boy was a mess, and the girl was the sweetest thing, giving us kisses on our cheeks everytime we turned around. She lives in a neighboring area, about an hour's walk away, so we made the trek and were rewarded with some beautiful new views of the mountains.

After dinner, our maid put on music, and we broke out into a good, old fashioned dance party! It was awesome! First, our maid taught me her traditional type dancing, which involved a lot of arms flailing about. Then, husband's language helper taught me her traditional dance, which was more upbeat. Picture a mix of Latin dancing and Saturday Night Fever and you have somewhat of an idea of what it looked like. There was even a moment where we did the two-fingers-over-the-eyes move. It was so much fun! Husband danced around with the kids while us girls played around.

One of the most exciting things about the night was we spent 2 hours there, and only spoke about 25% English, and we understood everything! It's so encouraging to spend time like that where you get done and feel like you can survive in this language.


here we go again

I posted on Saturday that husband and I tried to take our packages to the post office and were told we missed the mail truck by 10 minutes. After getting back from the hospital, I tried again. I took 3 packages this time, and showed them to the worker. He told me that actually, international parcels had to be sent from the main post office of our town, that no other post office had the customs labels. I asked him why he didn't tell me that on Saturday, since we had shown him our boxes and told him we were sending them air mail to the States. He just kept nodding and saying, "Yes, I remember you." So, for the second time in 3 days, I walked back home with the packages. You should have seem husband's face when I walked in the house with those packages.

Today, I stuffed 2 of the packages in a bag, and headed up to the main post office, a 40 minute walk from my house. Halfway there, I suddenly became surrounded by monkeys. I cautiously crossed the road, careful to not look at them directly. A woman walking toward me grabbed me and said, "You have a bag, be careful!" I suddenly felt like a spy in Cold War Russia. I nodded, took a step, and stopped. The monkeys were all over the road, and weren't budging. The woman and her husband stopped walking and blocked my way to protect me from what I'm convinced are God's most vile creation. We stood still for about a minute, just eyeing the monkeys and waiting for them to leave, which they didn't. Instead, they actually started coming closer to us. We ended up crossing the road at one point, the two very kind strangers still instructing me on how to behave. I've never seen monkeys like this. A group of about 20 of us walkers were huddled together, waiting to be able to walk again. The monkeys slowly scattered, and the husband of the couple looked at me and said, "Go!" ("here's your chance, defect! defect!") Ugh they really ruin my walk to the market.

I got the post office without anymore primate encounters. It was 3:11. I was so excited to get rid of some of these boxes! I showed the boxes to the woman worker, who promptly told me that the international parcel pickup is at 3pm, and I couldn't drop it off today. She also informed me that all international parcels must be taken to a tailor and had a white cloth sewn over them, otherwise the postal system would not mail them. I am glad she told me this; otherwise, the next time I take those darn boxes back to the post office, I would've been told to go back home for the 4th time. There's gotta be something in Proverbs 31 about this.

The silver lining to all this is that lugging those boxes around have got to be toning my arms a bit. And husband's dumbfounded reactions everytime I walk back home with the yet unmailed boxes are priceless.



For those of you who haven't heard, husband was admitted to the hospital Sunday morning (our time) because of what we found out was 'amoebic colonitis'. He was released Monday morning, feeling better than he had all week, according to him. The hospital room actually had two beds, so I was able to sleep at the hospital with him, and in the midst of the earlier seriousness, I couldn't help but notice the humor that was moving all around me.

For example, as I posted on Saturday, our neighbors were joining us at the office Sunday morning. So when husband said to me at 8am on Sunday, "I need you to take me to the hospital," I dressed quickly and went downstairs to tell the guys the bad news. I woke them up, but within 10 minutes, they were walking up our stairs (without knocking!) to rush into the living room to see just how bad husband was doing. They informed us they would be joining us on the way to hospital. This was a form of their hospitality, which can be overwhelming at times (present situation included).

So we arrived at the hospital. Our "deluxe" room, which I picked out for the TV for husband to watch, included two gurneys straight off the set of M*A*S*H, cracked walls, faded carpet, a dirty bathroom, and a TV that didn't work. It was alright, though, because the beds were actually comfortable, and all husband really needed was some medicine and rehydration solution. And the view must have been the best view from any hospital in the whole world. We entertained ourselves with books, rest, and our laptop computer complete with James Bond movies.

Lunchtime came and I found out I was not allowed to eat in the room, so I went up to the cafeteria, which gives a whole new meaning to hospital food. The nurse pointed me to the menu and told me to order anything. I should stop right here and say that I am a lot more adventurous when it comes to food than I used to be, but there are still 4 things I just absolutely can not eat. We're talking gag reflex and the whole bit: cucumbers, any form of melons, cilantro, and cabbage. (I found out about the cilantro effect upon arriving in a country where cilantro is considered as common a seasoning as salt and pepper) I scanned the menu and ordered the potatoes and bread. The cook told me they didn't have it. After looking at the list of over 30 items, I asked him what he did have. Rice, lentils, vegetables, and a sandwich was his response. Rice and veggies sounded pretty good, so I asked what the veggies were. Cabbage. Okay, strike the rice and veggies. What kind of sandwich is it? Tomato and cucumber.

So I skipped lunch.

Dinner came around, and I was starving. The nurses, who so kindly told me I could eat in the room, told me the cook could make me an omelette for dinner. I love breakfast for dinner, so I agreed. They asked what kind, and I said tomato and cheese, simple enough, which they said was fine. Then they came back about 20 minutes later and asked me to go to the cook and order my dinner, which I thought we just had. I shrugged and went upstairs, and the cook agreed to the order; no problem. About 15 minutes later, they brought in husband's veg soup (which he declared as good) and my green omelette. Green? Are those chilis? Oh, no, those are green onions, the nurses reassured me. I like green onions, I really do. They're probably my favorite onion. But not in the amount to where the entire omelette had lost it's original color. I asked for the tomato and cheese again, and the nurses told me that he didn't have any cheese or tomatoes. I briefly wondered why he agreed to cook it in the first place if he had no cheese or tomatoes, before realize, hey, this is South Asia. What did I expect? So I just ordered the scrambled eggs, and received a look from the nurses as I had asked to eat their firstborn sons. I had suddenly received the reputation as the picky and difficult wife. I ended up eating only toast for dinner. When I asked for some tea later, I received some rolled eyes before getting it. What? What did I do?

This morning, husband woke up feeling great. Praise our boss for his mighty works and kindness! They even brought him semi-solid food for breakfast which was nice. They also brought me some cornflakes and hot milk. Yes, hot. Husband had pity on my growling stomach and asked for some cold milk, which they thought was the strangest request, but since the Difficult Wife didn't ask, it was no problem.

After breakfast, we were told the senior doctor would visit husband before releasing him. What they failed to mention was that seven curious staffers would be joining the senior doctor. I'm not kidding, the door just kept opening. Husband and I were dying laughing by the 8th walkin. I was in the hospital once for pneumonia, and a couple of times a nursing student would come in to listen to my "textbook wheezing" as directed by her supervisor, but never have I heard of 8 doctors and nurses coming in to look at someone who had common intestine problems. What's that you say, Doctor? Someone had diarrhea?! Well, this I've gotta see!

I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that we were strange Americans in a very asian hospital.

Finally, after having to promise the hospital manager that we'd pay him after we got home (they didn't have a credit card machine or an ATM...and we didn't have that kind of cash on us), we left the hospital and are now free to eat all kinds of normal food. Well I am, anyway.

I say all this with a laugh, and not a complaining voice, I promise. You know I love this culture. I am just so relieved that husband is okay, and that the boss took care of him in only a day after they originally told us we'd have to be there for 3 days. He's in such good spirits, and is especially humbled by all the care and love he received from our family and friends who were concerned. Thanks for the money - the boss was faithful, as always.


you learn something new everyday

Breaking news! This just in! Husband has befriended the three neighbor guys downstairs, and tomorrow, they are going to join us for a meeting at our house. Our first people to join us! We will be doing some p&w, and then husband will tell a story, and we will all talk about what that story says to us, and of course, send money. Speaking of, please send money for these 3 guys to be touched by the boss tomorrow morning.

Alright, back to regularly scheduled postings.

I love finding out all the weird things about this city and its systems. It can be so fantastically frustrating sometimes. Today, after finishing packing up the boxes to send to our families for Christmas, we took the hike up to the post office. It closes at 5, and since we left after 4, we hurried a little to make it on time. We arrived at 4:40, and showed the man our boxes. (we only took 2 today...we are taking them up in small amounts because 1.) it's not an easy walk, and 2.) this city knows nothing of small boxes, and so we have small presents jostling around in big boxes) The postal worker told us, "I'm sorry. The truck has already come for today." We told him that it was okay, we just wanted to drop them off, and he could mail them out when the next one came on Monday. He told us, "No, you can't leave them here because it's not safe." We thought it over, and realized there was nothing to do but take them back home with us. At least he was honest. But we had some letters to mail out, too, so we thought we'd try our luck with them. Nope, same response; he refused to take our mail. While I did appreciate his concern for our items, and would much rather take the boxes back home than have them stolen, I couldn't help but wonder, "Then why are they still open?"

The electricity went out for awhile last night. The is nothing new; it goes out at least once a week for 5 minutes, or more. Last night, just as I turned on the oven, the lights flickered, and then there was pitch darkness. It wasn't just a breaker; it was our entire community. Husband told me it was probably me who caused it, because otherwise it was just some incredible coincidence. Oddly enough, I didn't feel too guilty, but more like a little pride. After thirty minutes without electricity (and without heat! yikes!) husband went into the kitchen, and noticed that the oven wasn't even plugged in! It wasn't caused by me afterall. He picked up the plug, put it in the socket, and the electricity immediately came back on.

Incredible coincidences never fail to make me laugh.


light in the darkness

Oh yeah! Husband made the best tortilla chips with the leftover tortillas. The best I've ever had. He's a mexican food genius.

This week was a huge holiday here. People hang up lights outside their houses (Christmas lights! It was beautiful) and light candles after doing their worship.

All the shops were open, with sweets and lights and decorations pouring out of their doors, and everyone has been so cheerful.

The fireworks have been the most notable celebration tactic! Ever since the middle of October, kids have been popping their black cats or lighting up their sparklers. Last night it sounded like the sky was exploding...we stood outside to listen to the fireworks and look at the lights, and we remarked at one time we felt like CNN correspondants in Baghdad. Two days ago, the big news was that in the big market, there was a fire at several adjacent firework stallss. I can't imagine how loud and crazy that was. Supposedly, the owners of the shops lost millions in fireworks. Yikes! The fireworks went on until after 2 in the morning, and someone (undoubtedly a kid who was forced to go to sleep before he could finish popping all of his) was popping fireworks right outside our window at 7 this morning. Thanks for that, buddy!